Inbound tourism i.e. to have larger volume of international tourists is the main objective and thereby put India on the international tourist map. Increased tourism numbers seen now are quite positive. 3 million figure achieved in 2004 and 5 million figure is targeted by 2007. Infact if the trend continues, the industry is quite optimistic to achieve 7 million figures. But we need to be ready for it to happen. We need to provide more hotels, more airlines to service India, more international airports and more developed highways. Infrastructure should be geared up. Along with infrastructure, introduction of liberal visa policies needs to be introduced which can guarantee easy entry to India. Visa on arrival (of course on payment of the prescribed fee) will be a big boost for increase in inbound tourism segment. Good air-connectivity not only from major traffic generating markets but with in the country to visit various tourist sites coupled with good fleets of surface transport services, trained manpower, evening entertainments, shopping malls would be needed to sustain the inbound growth. Infrastructure development can not be the responsibility of Government alone. This will need a liberal thinking in tourism development approach. A tourism approach supporting the private sector and foreign investments in infrastructure projects with tax incentives have to be adopted. For tourism development Government both in the Center and States have already initiated right steps. The States active in tourism related activities have made allocation of conveniently located lands in order to setup tourist facilities like accommodation, convention centers, amusement parks, shopping Malls, entertainment Centers, Travel shops, Human Resource Development Centers etc. Thus many of the State Governments, Government Agencies are already involved in the areas where its participation is a must with attractive incentives. Kerla, Goa, Himachal, Rajasthan can be mentioned among those States.
In bound tourism towards India will see a big change in the tourist arrival segments. More business traffic will be towards India than usual leisure ones. India growing economic power status and investment opportunities, information technology and change in the life styles of Indians will bring good number of incentive holidayers to India. Lot will come to India for attending conferences and conventions. Their demand will be different and we have to provide facilities to meet the requirements of these up-market clients. They will look for high quality accommodation, MICE facilities, transport, entertainment and security.
Another new segment in inbound sector will be for medical and wellness. Medical treatments which can be conducted on international standard with modern facilities but packaged on a very affordable price. Some would like to come for rejuvenating packages at relaxing surrounding of Kerala, Goa with Ayurvedic massage etc. This is to be nearer to nature and get away from daily routine. That is more like a cleanup process for physical, mental and emotional in living style. India will have the cost advantage. India is now in a position to face competitions from neighboring competitors. The new areas that have emerged with medical tourism also Spa culture, BPO’s (in diagnostic Health Care) health recuperation (post include) operation holiday packages etc. Many States have packaged medical care with a host of other services like meet and assist at the airport, escort service, transfers, stay in a hotel, assistance for medical treatment, recuperation holiday at comfortable resorts, return transfers, medicine stock etc. Globalisation has its effect in the health sector too with the emergence of a private sector that thrives by servicing this segment specially – Middle East and South Asian countries.
The health tourism is non-seasonal. Often clients will think to come to India where they combine as holiday along with medical treatment. There is often repeat visits for check ups and many additional tourists could be derived through positive references. Hotel can fight offseasonability factor by offering rooms at a special rate for accompanying members. Here pricing strategies need to be controlled by balancing cost versus services. For this segment, hotels may come up with basic amenities.
Another segment which will boost inbound is Heritage tourism. Heritage hotels, world heritage sites in India and other man made and natural heritage sites, Heritage Rail Journeys, wild life parks, Heritage houses in Goa, Kerala, Rajasthan – with its unique experience. Heritage tourism will also be linked with eco-tourism as many of the heritage hotels are located in deep natural surroundings in mountains, forests and interior green spots. This may also provide Rural tourism experience with ethnic flavours. Spiritual tourism will be an important segment to boost inbound tourism. Many will come for pilgrimage or followers of new age gurus like Satya Sai Baba, Osho’s Ashram; mostly a chunk of NRIs will be coming for this purpose. This can be a USP for India. Sports tourism with adventure tourism activities in mountains, water front areas, beach areas and aerial sports including hang gliding, or deep seas sports scuba diving or skiing in snow clad mountains and golfing holidays will also attract good number of youths tourists to India.
But improving infrastructure and information dissemination to make these destinations attractive for foreigners will be most essential prior to doing aggressive promotions. Golfing holidays will need up-market facilities and it can become high yield one for India. These segments are uniquely placed for increasing inbound traffic. Combination of circumstances and India’s strategic location and better connectivity will be added advantage to encash now. Our trade should capitalise on these segments. Many States like Kerala, Goa, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, have recognised the importance of tourism as vehicle for economic development and aggressively projecting themselves. For attracting tourist, they are doing quite well and will do better with niche product marketing. They are creating an ambience fertile for such growth with strong Government initiatives to keep infrastructure ready to receive the increased numbers. Importance of inbound tourism has now been recognised along with domestic tourism but inbound tourism brings dollars that can help in bringing more infrastructural changes. Tourism recognition contributes significantly to strengthening the brand and profile of the destination and Incredible India with global campaigns have started the impacts. We need to collect Qualitative datas to establish contours of each market and reach new markets to sustain the inbound tourism potential.